When we started our full-time Airstream life, we didn’t set a specific timeline for how long we’d be on the road. We were shooting for around three years, but we weren’t going to force anything. Prior to our first night as full timers, we had never spent a night in the Airstream, so we didn’t know what to expect.
But we loved it.
From January of 2018 to March of 2020, we continuously zig-zagged through the western half of the United States and two Canadian provinces. We travelled to places we had never thought possible, many of which we had never even heard of until #airstreamlife. There are so many unique, beautiful, amazing places to see in this country of ours, and we felt privileged we were able to experience them.
And then March 2020 rolled in. When the pandemic started, we tried to travel as little as possible and stay socially distanced, but the isolation and uncertainty started to wear on us. We decided that the best thing for us to do (when staying home was the safest and considerate thing to do), was get off the road and find a home base to settle into. We decided on Bozeman, Montana, a city we had spent time in during the previous two summers. We loved its beauty, the outdoorsy-ness, and the small-town feel with all of the amenities a larger city has to offer, like good restaurants, breweries, and an airport. We found a perfect-for-us condo online, had the listing agent do a Facetime walkthrough, and set off from our little oasis of an RV resort outside Capitol Reef National Park and headed north. In early May, we did an in-person walkthrough and put in an offer that was accepted. Luckily, we were hitting the market just right and prices hadn’t yet increased. During the (many) weeks it took for us to close, we continued to live in the Airstream at a few different RV parks in the area. We finally closed at the end of July and settled into a ‘sticks and bricks’ once more.
And we loved it.
We loved all the things that you give up in order to live in an Airstream. Privacy. Rooms with doors. King-size bed. Washer and dryer. Dishwasher. Large shower. Normal-size kitchen appliances. We loved having a local grocery store again. We loved exploring all of the hiking trails in the area. For us, it was an incredibly easy transition from Airstream life to condo life. #noregrets
We were lucky to find an available indoor storage unit in the area for the Airstream to live in when it wasn’t being used. Over the next year (mid-2020 to mid-2021), as we continued to travel in the Airstream part-time, the thoughts starting creeping in. On the bad days (and there are ALWAYS bad days when it comes to RV life), we missed our new home. We found ourselves cutting some trips short so that we could get back to Bozeman sooner. We regularly talked about selling the Airstream, but decided to spend one more winter in San Diego before making any final decisions. We lived in San Diego pre-Airstream life and had spent a decent amount of our previous winters on the road there. We made it to Southern California mid-November and, well, it wasn’t the best experience. You can read more about that here, but the gist is that we ended up having to stay at a less-than-ideal RV park, had crappy weather, and Travis had a medical issue. It’s that last one that really cemented the idea of selling the Airstream, and what better place to do it than San Diego County? To read about the selling process, click here.
A lot of people in our life were surprised by our decision, but here are the reasons we came to it:
First, RVing has changed dramatically since we first started in 2018. There are hundreds of thousands of more RVs on the road now. You have to plan further ahead (like, sometimes a year or more) and pay more than ever before.
Second, we love Bozeman! Owning the Airstream made us feel like we had to travel regularly in it, otherwise it was stupid to be paying the carrying costs (storage and insurance). But we hadn’t gotten to spend much time exploring and enjoying Bozeman, and we wanted to change that.
Third, we lost the excitement and spark one needs to have to live the Airstream life. The concessions we had to make when living in a tiny space had started to outweigh the joy it brought. When people asked us how long we were going to full time, we would always say until it’s not fun anymore. And while we stopped full timing a while ago, part timing had lost the magic for us as well.
Fourth, Airstream’s parent company has an $18 billion backlog of orders. Airstream dealerships are empty. Someone ordering an Airstream today has to wait 9-12 months for delivery. This supply and demand issue means used Airstreams are selling quickly and for a good price on the private market. It was an ideal time to sell.
Fifth, Travis’s health scare put things into perspective. We were VERY lucky to be in San Diego when it happened, but could have easily been in the middle of nowhere. This was always the biggest fear for us and we just didn’t want to tempt fate twice.
But the number one reason for selling was 100% financial:
Not all that long ago, we “owned” a four-bedroom, three-bath home in North County San Diego. I say “owned” because we had a too-large mortgage on this too-large house and it was going to be decades before we truly “owned” it. I had student loans. We had vehicle loans. We had credit card debt. Yet, we were still eating out way too often and taking vacations we shouldn’t have. We were going to concerts and Broadway shows and buying clothes whenever we felt like it. We weren’t necessarily living beyond our means, but we definitely weren’t concerned with paying down debt or building our savings. Then, one day, a realtor knocked on our door and asked us if we wanted to sell our house. And we did. With the proceeds, we paid off our debt. We moved into a rental and eventually decided to buy the Airstream. With some of the remaining profits from the house, we were able to buy our Airstream and truck in cash. We entered our full-time Airstream life truly debt free. And because our mostly-remote consulting business easily transitioned to road life, our income didn’t change. Of course, there was still site rental fees, gas, propane, laundry, groceries, vehicle maintenance, insurance, etc. – but we didn’t owe anyone anything and it was a glorious feeling.
Our full-time Airstream life was much less expensive than our pre-Airstream life, but that may not be the case for everyone. We had a very spendy lifestyle in an area of the country with a high cost of living. Also, living in the Airstream really turned us into minimalists, which is also not the case for all RVers. We stopped buying stuff – mainly because there was no room for it. We stopped going out to eat all the time. We stopped taking vacations. We started to really pay attention to what we spent our money on. I’ve seen people enter the RV world thinking they were going to save tons of money and then not, but for us, it worked out. During our 2.5 years of full-time Airstream life, we were able to build up our savings, increase our investments, and focus on contributing to retirement. Financial stability kind of became an addiction for us.
As the discussion about selling the Airstream became more serious, we looked at our financials closely. We realized that if we were able to get a certain amount for the AS (which we ended up getting), that we’d be able to pay the condo off and once again be 100% debt free. So that, my friends, is what we did. Just 18 months and 4 days after closing on our condo, we were able to pay the mortgage in full.
Buying and living in the Airstream taught us how to be financially intelligent. Selling the Airstream allowed us to be truly financially independent. And 1.5 years after quitting the full-time lifestyle, we are still living a pretty minimalist life, choosing not to surround ourselves with stuff. People ask if selling the Airstream was bittersweet. For us, it was not. Did we get to do and see everything we had hoped to? No, and that’s okay. We loved that part of our life, but we do not miss it. We did, however, learn so much about ourselves and how we want to live our lives, so we will be eternally appreciative of our time spent as Airstreamers.